I confess I’m a deeply afflicted cruise addict who, if time and money permitted, would likely spend more days on the water than on land. Alas, this is not possible and perhaps it’s a good thing because, who knows, I suppose I could get tired of a pampered life – although it’s doubtful. My most recent pampering was a Caribbean cruise aboard the Solstice, a 3,000-passenger vessel belonging to Celebrity Cruises, a line that’s a member of the Royal Caribbean International family. The service I call pampering includes out-of-this-world dining (about the best I have experienced on any cruise ship), a cabin steward making my bed and cleaning my room daily, first-rate entertainment and stimulating ports of call. No matter how you slice it, this is the good life even if it’s only for a week.

About the Ship

Built in Germany and launched in 2008, the Solstice is a pretty vessel with large staterooms featuring unusually generous bathrooms and plentiful closet and storage space. The reason the ship’s cabins are so perfectly laid out is that Celebrity Cruises employed five travel-savvy women to help design them. They were not professional designers; rather they were simply ladies who knew what constitutes a good functioning stateroom.

The 15-deck Solstice also features a beautiful central atrium, plenty of shops, a sizeable casino, several restaurants including two specialty restaurants, a martini bar, full-service spa and much more. This is a big ship measuring slightly over 1,000 feet long with 1,425 staterooms, the majority of them with balconies.

To maintain the daily pampering, the Solstice employs 1,257 cruise staff from 67 different nations who, to a person, are exceptionally accommodating. Just as I did, first-time cruises, Tom and Heather Saba, from Windsor, Ontario, ranked the onboard service both impeccable and friendly.

Ports of Call

Overall, the ship is much like a floating hotel that glides through the Caribbean stopping at specially selected ports of call. This particular cruise made stops at the Dutch/French island of St. Martin, St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

St. Thomas is renowned for its duty free shopping and St. Martin is unique in that the top half of the island is French and the bottom half is Dutch. This is definitely a worthwhile place to make an onboard booking for an island tour. San Juan also has shopping, island tours and excursions; however, its not-to-be-missed attraction is El Morro, an awesome sprawling fort built by the Spanish in the 16th century. Around Old San Juan there are also smaller forts and the 16th century Cathedral of San Juan Bautista. Together, these ancient edifices built on an island discovered by Columbus in 1493 make the city an historic gold mine.

The question that often comes up regarding booking an island tour or some other kind of excursion is this: should cruise passengers pay a little more by booking onboard or pay a little less by arranging it independently onshore with people who are not endorsed by the cruise line. It’s up to the individual, of course, but there have been unfortunate incidents in the Caribbean where tours with onshore independents not vetted by the cruise line ended up with passengers being robbed and roughed up. My advice is to play it safe and book onboard.

Unique to the Solstice

One of the most interesting onboard entertainment activities is a daily glass blowing demonstration. Through a company partnership with the famous Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York, the Solstice features daily, live demonstrations that embody the ancient techniques of glass blowing.

Staged outdoors on the top deck during one-hour shows; expert glass blowers produce amazing pieces of art glass that begins in a blazing hot furnace through to the finished product. It’s an awesome demonstration and a must-see onboard attraction.

Something else you might not expect to see on a cruise ship is a lawn club. That’s right, a large lawn of genuine grass that is regularly mowed to keep it golf-green perfect. Located on the top deck next to the outdoor glass blowing studio, the lawn club is the site of daily games of croquet, bocce ball and golf putting.

In addition to these two unique attractions, passengers can also choose from other onboard activities such as popular trivia contests, basketball, ping-pong, line dancing, fruit carving, karaoke, yoga classes, computer sessions, art auctions or simply head to the movie theatre to view a recent-release flick. Every evening, a daily roster of activities is delivered to each stateroom setting out the activities for the next day.

Exceptional cuisine

Repeated cruise passenger surveys show that onboard dining is one of their top priorities. In other words – food needs to be plentiful and good. The Solstice earns a gold star in this regard. As far as plentiful is concerned, the amount of food loaded onto the ship before sailing is actually mind-boggling.

Here are some of the stats: 32,000 lbs. of meat, 12,000 lbs. of fish and seafood, 27,000 lbs. of fruit, 45,000 lbs. of vegetables, 15,000 lbs. of dairy and 23,000 lbs. of dry goods.

All of these supplies are turned into an amazing smorgasbord of cuisines served up in the ship’s restaurants. Among the various eateries is a main dining room, three specialty restaurants (Asian, Italian and French), an enormous buffet restaurant, a pool-side grill, a bistro, and a spa café. Most evenings I dined in the main dining room where the service was excellent and the multi-course dinners were exceptional. However, dinner was equally good in the buffet restaurant where the room was set up with multiple food stations offering cuisines from around the world including Mexican, Asian, Italian, Moroccan and more. Overall, I can say without prejudice the food on the Solstice is outstanding.

Captain’s Club

There were many things about this cruise that I loved and among them was the Captain’s Club. You get into this special club by either repeat cruising on the Solstice (or other member ships) or by booking a premium stateroom.

Check out the Celebrity Cruises website (www.celebritycruises.com) and find out the many benefits that come with being a member of this circle. Members are offered mid morning specialty coffees, teas and sweet rolls in an elegant, intimate room, plus every evening there is a no-cost, two-hour cocktail session with an array of delectable canapés.

Both of these functions are members-only affairs and represent just two of the benefits of the Captain’s Club.


For more information about the Solstice or other Celebrity ships, together with their worldwide itineraries, call 1-800-647-2251 or go online at www.celebritycruises.com.

The toll free number and the online website provide a wealth of useful information about the company’s various cruises, its cruise ships, convenient online check-in and the pre-cruise booking of shore excursions and spa treatments, plus every small detail about cruising with Celebrity Cruises.